Numbers Show the Need
A multitude of studies have provided strong research that growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development. Per Kids Count (2017), poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn. In Florida, there are 1,899,000 children living below the 200% poverty level, and statewide, there are 1,559,000 children living in single-parent homes with almost half of all families living in poverty headed by a single mother. In Alachua County, to include the surrounding counties of Baker, Bay, Bradford, Clay, Calhoun, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Putnam, and Union, there are 93,945 single-parent households.
Children growing up in single-parent families typically do not have the same economic resources and support systems available as those growing up in two-parent families. Compared with children in married-couple families, children raised in single-parent households are more likely to drop out of school, experience teen pregnancy, and to have a divorce in adulthood. There is a greater likelihood that children living in poverty and in a single-parent home will engage with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) due to social and economic strain. According to DCF, as of June 2017, there were 21,606 children assessed for need of DCF intervention, 11,899 receiving in-home services, 13,622 placed in kinship care, 10,454 placed in licensed foster homes and 825 children available for adoption. Per Partnership for Strong Families (PSF), the lead community-based care agency for Florida Judicial Circuits 3 and 8, approximately 600 of those children were in out-of-home care in North Central Florida, with 45 available children for adoption.
Per DCF, there has been an increase of 19% in the number of children being removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, and abandonment so far in 2017. The population of Gainesville is 127,559, with 37.6% living below the poverty line, higher than the national average of 14.7%. The largest demographic population living in poverty is female, ages 18-24 (Data USA 2017).
A Local, Residential Ministry
Given the Gainesville/ Alachua County area population needs for social services, specific to single mothers and children, the demands for services are not congruent with the supply available. The need is great for the Friends of Children and Florida Baptist Children’s Homes to intervene and assist higher risk children living below the poverty level in a single mother home. The body of Christ is responsible to care for the fatherless. Many of these children growing up in a single mother home have mothers who deeply love them and want the best for them, but they do not have the resources or support systems needed to succeed. Often, they come from an abusive relationship or have experienced financial ruin or have never known the meaning of trust or unconditional love. It is because of our strong desire to serve children and families like these that we created the Brave Moms program. Brave Moms is a residential ministry that exists to serve courageous single moms who need support, stability, and encouragement as they fight to better their lives and provide their families a future filled with hope and possibility. A Brave Moms program in the Gainesville area will help assist families to remain together, while promoting protective factors and strengthening the resiliency needs for healthy family functioning — all through the love of Jesus.